Blessing #3: Peace Talks

You might have noticed that the title of this blog is “Random Catholic Convert.” I and my family converted this last Easter to what has become a beautiful part of our lives: our Catholic faith. We feel at home in it now, but the decision to convert caused a bit of a storm in my immediate family. I grew up in a very anti-Catholic household that felt the Catholic church distorted the core of the Christian faith into something blasphemous. So you can imagine how our decision went down.
I respect people who have conviction a lot, whatever their conviction. Better to live life with something to live and die for than just live life for nothing – that’s my 2 cents on the matter. Winston Churchill made the famous statement, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Oh boy does my family stand up for something. BIG time.
And to add to that, they love me dearly, so, as you can imagine, the most heated arguments happened with them – specifically my older sister and her husband. I was the crack addict needing intervention. I was the one fleeing to a cult, and I needed to be set straight. We all need people like that in our lives. Thank God I have them.
But after awhile, as I grew in greater conviction that Catholicism was for me, the conversations became more and more difficult to have. It was like I had fallen in love with this charming, beautiful girl and my family was trying to convince me (not meaning to be offensive to me personally of course) that she was a drunken whore. Our spiritual conversations that used to be so mutually encouraging devolved into debates every time. It got to the point where we couldn’t really share anything anymore that had anything remotely to do with God. And this is hard for a guy who has an entire blog on the subject.
I felt bitterness and hurt without wanting to feel them. I felt resentment knowing that I shouldn’t be resentful. I couldn’t shake it. If someone couldn’t accept this gigantic part of my life, we could still be civil and kind.But a huge part of me was now shut off from them. I understood them. I didn’t want them to feel anything different if they didn’t really feel that way. But I was angry about it… and eventually kind of distant.
All of that changed when the fall came. Things had been going well over the summer. We had moved into a two-bedroom apartment in the Bay Area. Surprisingly, it had worked well. My schedule was lighter because a lot of my students dropped off for the summer, so I could be home more to help out with the kids. Ren was finished with a program she had been in to help her manage her emotions. My mom sold her house in the Bay Area and moved to Sacramento, where she has found a lot of peace and happiness. But when the fall hit, and all my students came back, Ren went downward into depression again. The thoughts of going day in and day out with three needy kids in an apartment and a husband working 10 to 12 hour days started to sink in, and she began going back to where she had been months before when all this broke in the first place.
We realized things weren’t going to get better over night, and that Ren needed space and time to really heal. So the gut-wrenching solution was that we needed to send the kids away to friends or family who could take care of them in a major way – for most of the week, 24 hours a day – until we could sort something else out. And, as it so happened, who were the ones who could pull this off and, even more than that, were willing to?
My sister and her husband.
They took in my three children and, with my mom’s help, fed them, clothed them, woke up with them in the middle of the night, told their own kids to put up with the hassle of having toddlers in the house, and bore all of it with Christian charity and grace. And I saw my children thrive as these people I had distanced myself from began passing on the same virtues to my kids that I want to pass on to them as well.
Conviction cuts both ways. Those with the conviction to heartily disagree with you, to argue with you, to make their point loud and clear no matter how you feel about the subject because it’s “the right thing to do” are also most often those who will go the extra mile, throw themselves in front of a bus for you, and do everything they need to make sure you and your family are doing all right simply because it’s “the right thing to do.” In the best sense of the word, that’s what “family” means.
And that is the third blessing of my wife’s mental illness. It actually brought the individual equivalents of northern Ireland and southern Ireland to the table for peace talks. I know the tension was really mostly my fault, if not all my fault. And while we all still disagree with great conviction, I know now that we love each other with equal zeal.

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